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Article

Jane Geddes

Deluxe manuscript (Aberdeen, U. Lib., MS. 24) made in England around 1200. It is remarkable for its lavish illustrations, amply covered in gold leaf; for the wealth of its codicological data and for its close relationship to the Ashmole Bestiary. The book was left unfinished, so sketches and the detailed instructions for its colouring and assembly remain visible. The last few pages were completed in the 14th century. The book begins with a Creation cycle of full-page miniatures culminating in Adam Naming the Animals and Christ in Majesty. A portrait or narrative illustration of each animal precedes every text description.

The manuscript contains the press mark of King Henry VIII’s library, mainly assembled after the dissolution of the monasteries, but its provenance before 1542 is not known. Muratova (1986, pp. 118–144) uses cumulative information from a group of related manuscripts to suggest a provenance in the north-east Midlands; Geddes (...

Article

Alchemy  

Laurinda Dixon

Ancient science from which modern chemistry evolved. Based on the concept of transmutation—the changing of substances at the elemental level—it was both a mechanical art and an exalted philosophy. Practitioners attempted to combine substances containing the four elements (fire, water, earth, and air) in perfect balance, ultimately perfecting them into a fifth, the quintessence (also known as the philosopher’s stone) via the chemical process of distillation. The ultimate result was a substance, the ‘philosopher’s stone’, or ‘elixir of life’, believed capable of perfecting, or healing, all material things. Chemists imitated the Christian life cycle in their operations, allegorically marrying their ingredients, multiplying them, and destroying them so that they could then be cleansed and ‘resurrected’. They viewed their work as a means of attaining salvation and as a solemn Christian duty. As such, spiritual alchemy was sanctioned, legitimized, and patronized by the Church. Its mundane laboratory procedures were also supported by secular rulers for material gain. Metallurgists employed chemical apparatus in their attempts to transmute base metals into gold, whereas physicians and apothecaries sought ultimately to distill a cure-all elixir of life. The manifold possibilities inherent in such an outcome caused Papal and secular authorities to limit and control the practice of alchemy by requiring licences and punishing those who worked without authorization....

Article

[Jehan; Giovanni]

(fl 1382–1411).

Writer, active in Paris. Between 1382 and 1410 he travelled to Italy on a number of occasions, where he collected recipes for the manufacture of pigments and other techniques from the artists that he met. He also borrowed manuals or handbooks on the washing, purifying and grinding of colours to assist him in his research. In 1431 his collection of recipes was obtained by Jehan Le Bègue (1368–after 1431), a licentiate in the law and notary to the Master of the Mint in Paris. Le Bègue copied out the recipes in his own hand and incorporated them in two sections (De coloribus diversis modis tractatur and De diversis coloribus) into a collection of texts discussing the practice of painting, entitled Experimenta de coloribus (Paris, Bib. N., MS. 6741), first published in 1849 (trans. M. Merrifield). Le Bègue’s compilation begins with a glossary of terms, mostly taken from Alcherius and the ...

Article

[Alfonso, King of Germany]

(b Toledo, Nov 23, 1221; reg 1252–84; d Seville, April 4, 1284).

Spanish ruler and patron. He was a man of wide learning, a legislator and a poet. Although moderately successful in the Reconquest, following the tradition of his father Ferdinand III, King of Castile and León (reg 1217–52), he provoked opposition by raising taxes and seeking election as Holy Roman Emperor (1256).

Alfonso sponsored translations of Arab writings on astronomy and astrology. He himself composed works of history, poetry and law. His Cantigas de Santa María, a collection of over 400 poems, which survive in four manuscripts (Madrid, Escorial, Real Bib. Monasterio S Lorenzo, MSS B.I.2 and T.I.1; Madrid, Bib. N., MS. 10069; Florence, Bib. N. Cent., MS. B.R.20), were written in Galician over a period of 25 years ending in 1279. The songs of the Virgin are accompanied by an important and extensive series of over 1000 small genre scenes ‘structured like a modern comic-strip to tell the song’s narrative visually’ (Burns). Bullfights and street scenes are shown; battles depict both Christians and Muslims, and several pictures reveal Alfonso himself (he considered himself to be a troubadour of the Virgin Mary, ...

Article

Joan Isobel Friedman

(b Florence, May 1265; d Ravenna, ?14 ?Sept 1321).

Italian writer. He is universally recognized as the greatest poet of the Middle Ages. His masterpiece, the Divine Comedy (begun 1307 or 1314), contains many passages in which Dante expressed his appreciation of painting and sculpture, and the themes in the poem have challenged artists from the 14th century to the present day.

Dante was the only child of a notary, Alighiero II, son of Bellincione degli Alighieri and his first wife Bella. The Alighieris were descendants of the Elisei, an ancient and noble Florentine family. Dante may have studied at Bologna University, but he admitted to having taught himself the art of versifying. About 1283 he married Gemma di Manetto Donati, who bore him four children. His sons Pietro and Jacopo wrote commentaries on the Divine Comedy.

Dante met Bice Portinari, whom he called Beatrice, in 1274. He recorded his love for her in La vita nuova, c....

Article

Béla Zsolt Szakács

Luxuriously illustrated hagiographical picture book from the 14th century. The codex is fragmented; the biggest part is preserved in the Vatican (Rome, Vatican, Bib. Apostolica, Vat. Lat. 8541, 106 fols),while single pages are kept in St Petersburg (Hermitage, 16930–16934), Berkeley (U. CA, Bancroft Lib., f2MSA2M21300–37), New York (Met., 1994.516) and Paris (Louvre, RF 29940), and 85 miniatures are in the Morgan Library, New York (M.360.1–26).

Presently 549 miniatures of the original of more than 700 are known on 142 folios. The manuscript consists of pictures exclusively, without the full texts of the legends; one-line tituli are written in rubrics beside the images. The 58 existing cycles depict the life of Christ, the Death of the Virgin, and the legends of John the Baptist, the apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins and holy women in hierarchical order. The narrative follows the Legenda aurea or Golden Legend of Jacopo da Voragine and, in the cases of Eastern and Central European saints (Gerhard of Csanád, Ladislas, Emeric, Stanislas), other local legends, creating an extraordinarily rich iconographic treasury. The longest cycle is dedicated to James the Greater, originally with 72 scenes; other legends consist of between 2 and 24 scenes. The selection of saints points to a commission from the Hungarian Angevin court. Its style, typical of the second quarter of the 14th century, is closest to Bolognese manuscripts but with unique features, and as such Hungary has also been proposed as the place of execution....

Article

Italian, 15th century, male.

Activec.1456.

Painter, writer.

Antonello di Nicola da Teramo painted a Last Judgement at S Giovanni in Teramo.

Article

Artistic manifestations of Arthurian legends antedate surviving textual traditions and sometimes bear witness to stories that have not survived in written form. Thus the Tristan sculptures (c. 1102–17) carved on a column from the north transept of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela show that the story was in circulation at least a generation before the earliest surviving written text was composed. The one surviving manuscript of Béroul’s Tristan is unillustrated, while the fragments of Thomas’s version include a single historiated initial showing Tristan playing the harp (Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Fr. d. 16, fol. 10). Although Eilhart von Oberge’s Tristrant, composed in the late 12th century, is the earliest version of the Tristan story to survive complete, the only surviving illustrated copy dates from the 15th century (c. 1465–75; Heidelberg, UBib., Cpg 346), while the Munich manuscript of Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan was made in south Germany ...

Article

Dorothy Verkerk

Illuminated manuscript of the first five books of the Old Testament (now incomplete), dating from the late 6th or early 7th century (Paris, Bib.N., MS. nouv. acq. lat. 2334) and named after the English collector Bertram Ashburnham. Also known as the Pentateuch of Tours, the Ashburnham Pentateuch is one of the oldest surviving pre-Carolingian Vulgate manuscripts of the Old Testament. In its present condition, it lacks the last verses of Numbers and all of Deuteronomy; while 18 pages of illustration and 1 frontispiece survive from the original 65 pages with illustrations. The illustrated pages comprise several scenes generally arranged in two or three bands, although some pages have one or two large scenes, others combine illustration and text. Painted tituli that follow the Vulgate accompany the miniatures; however, beneath the painted titutli are preliminary inscriptions penned in ink that follow the Vetus latina text.

Based upon stylistic, iconographical and codicological evidence, the Pentateuch appears to have been made in a late 6th- to early 7th-century Italian scriptorium. Twelve pages were added in the 8th century by scribes from Fleury; an additional restored page (fol. 33) was added in the 7th century by a Touronian scribe. The illustrations often deviate from the exact retelling of the biblical text. The column of smoke and fire, for example, in the story of the Crossing of the Red Sea is depicted as a large candle held in two hands, a reference to Easter Vigil liturgical ceremonies (fol. 68...

Article

Debra Higgs Strickland

Richly illustrated bestiary manuscript (275×185mm, 105 fols; Oxford, Bodleian Lib., Ashmole 1511), written in Latin and illuminated probably in southern England around 1210. The original patron is unknown. It contains the text and illustrations of a complete bestiary, with prefatory Creation scenes and excerpts from Genesis and part of Hugh de Folieto’s Aviarium (Book of Birds). It is a luxury manuscript with lavish use of gold leaf, sometimes tooled, in the backgrounds of the full-page miniatures and numerous smaller framed animal ‘portraits’. Its images are especially notable for their ornamental qualities, evident in both the pictorial compositions and a wide variety of geometric framing devices. The prefatory cycle includes a full-page miniature of Adam Naming the Animals. The Ashmole Bestiary is considered a ‘sister’ manuscript to the Aberdeen Bestiary (Aberdeen, U. Lib., MS. 24), to which it is iconographically very closely related, but owing to major stylistic differences the two manuscripts have been attributed to different artists. The chronological relationship between the two has been disputed: based on proposed workshop methods, Muratova (...

Article

Sophie Page

Astrology is the art of predicting events on earth as well as human character and disposition from the movements of the planets and fixed stars. Medieval astrology encompassed both general concepts of celestial influence, and the technical art of making predictions with horoscopes, symbolic maps of the heavens at particular moments and places constructed from astronomical information. The scientific foundations of the art were developed in ancient Greece, largely lost in early medieval Europe and recovered by the Latin West from Arabic sources in the 12th and 13th centuries. Late medieval astrological images were successfully Christianized and were adapted to particular contexts, acquired local meanings and changed over time.

Astrology developed into a scientific branch of learning in ancient Greece, but because of the opposition of the Church Fathers it was transmitted to early medieval Europe in only fragmentary form in technically unsophisticated textbooks and popular divinatory genres. Literary and scientific texts provided more general ideas about the nature and attributes of the planets which were influential on later iconography. The first significant astrological images appear in 11th-century illustrated astronomical texts (e.g. London, BL, Cotton MS. Tiberius BV), which were acquired and produced by monasteries to aid with time-keeping and the construction of the Christian calendar....

Article

Charles Buchanan

Type of large-format Bible, usually found in pandect (single-volume) form, produced in central Italy and Tuscany from around 1060 to the middle of the 12th century. They came out of the efforts of a reformist papacy intent on wresting control over ecclesiastical investiture from the Holy Roman Emperor. The Giant Bibles were produced in reformed canonries and monasteries and then exported to the same, not only in Italy but throughout Europe.

The term ‘Atlantic’ (from the mythological giant Atlas) is derived from their impressive size; dimensions range from 550 to 600 mms by 300 to 400 mms. Their script, derived from Caroline minuscule, is placed in two columns of around fifty-five lines. The texts are decorated with two initial types, which Edward B. Garrison designated as ‘geometrical’ and ‘full shaft’, both of which are derived from Carolingian and Ottonian exemplars, respectively. The iconography consists of full-length prophets, patriarchs, kings and saints as well as narrative scenes. The last are at times found as full-page cyclical illuminations and preface important textual divisions, especially Genesis. The iconography of the Giant Bibles is a specific Roman iconographical recension with its sources based in part on Early Christian pictorial cycles, such as the wall paintings of Old St Peter’s in Rome. These came from an era considered by the reformers to have been uncorrupted by the abuses that afflicted the Church when these Bibles were being made. While the Giant Bibles were promulgated by the Church of Rome as a symbol of its supreme authority, they also allowed the clergy to perform the liturgy, and the Divine Office in particular, properly....

Article

Anne Prache

(b Paris, April 9, 1884; d Paris, Dec 28, 1962).

French art historian. The son of an architect, he graduated from the Ecole des Chartes in Paris in 1907 and became a DLitt in 1921. He was a curator at the Bibliothèque Nationale, then in the department of sculpture at the Louvre, of which he became chief curator in 1940. He taught at the Ecole des Chartes, the Ecole du Louvre, and at the universities of Harvard and Yale in the USA. He presided over the Société Française d’Archéologie for 25 years and was a member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres from 1934. A specialist in the Middle Ages, Aubert particularly studied the cathedrals of Senlis and Notre-Dame, Paris, Cistercian architecture, and French sculpture and stained glass. He trained a generation of medievalists and above all influenced the study of medieval architecture, especially in his precise analysis of the details of a building in order to establish its chronology. His work on sculpture was more limited, however, because he was interested only in the development of style, not in sources or iconography. Aubert was editor of the ...

Article

Oxana Cleminson

(Vlas’yevich)

(b Mariupol’, Feb 20, 1862; d Leningrad [now St Petersburg], Dec 12, 1939).

Russian art historian of Ukrainian birth. He studied first in Odessa at the Novorossiysky University under Professor N. P. Kondakov and in 1888 followed Kondakov to St Petersburg, where he completed his education. During his university years, together with his fellow student E. Redin Aynalov, he researched the mosaics and mural paintings of St Sophia in Kiev, where his main interest was devoted to their iconography. He received his master’s degree in 1901. In 1903 Aynalov was appointed to a chair at Kazan’ University.

In one of his first works, Mosaics of the Fourth and Fifth Centuries (1895), Aynalov not only gave a very complete survey of the material, but replaced the prevailing theory held by Western scholars concerning a Roman school that was said to have determined the initial history of Byzantine art. Aynalov considered that it was not the West but the East that had been responsible for its stylistic development. He dealt with another of the most fundamental problems of Byzantine art in his monograph ...

Article

German, 15th century, male.

Born c. 1435; died 1504.

Painter, miniaturist, illuminator, writer, printer. Religious subjects.

School of Alsace.

Hans Baemler's name appears for the first time in 1453. He established himself in Augsburg as a printer. His name appears on two miniatures, a Crucifixion...

Article

Italian, 16th century, male.

Born 19 January 1560, in Alcamo; died 27 July 1604.

Painter, draughtsman, poet.

Sebastiano Bagolino was the son of the painter Leonardo Bagolino. His only surviving works are a few drawings in Alcamo and in the city library of Palermo.

Article

Flemish, 16th century, male.

Born c. 1525, in Antwerp; died c. 1598.

Painter, engraver, poet. Genre scenes, village scenes, local scenes (kermesses).

Antwerp School, Flemish School.

A member of the guild of St Luke in 1540, Pieter Balten became the dean of the guild in 1569. As an artist he was much influenced by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Indeed, a large composition by Pieter Balten now in the museum in Amsterdam, ...

Article

Kirk Ambrose

(b Moscow, May 7, 1903; d Paris, Jan 25, 1988).

Lithuanian art historian, scholar of folklore and Egyptology, and diplomat of Russian birth. Son of the celebrated Lithuanian Symbolist poet of the same name, Jurgis Baltrušaitis II studied under Henri(-Joseph) Focillon at the Sorbonne and earned the PhD in 1931. The concerns of his mentor are evident in La stylistique ornementale dans la sculpture romane (1931), which reprises and extends arguments for the ‘law of the frame’ in Romanesque sculpture. Accordingly, the shapes of architectural members, such as capitals and tympana, determined the articulation of sculptural forms. This theory could account for the genesis of a wide array of monumental carvings, from foliate capitals to narrative reliefs, but ultimately it had a rather limited impact on the field of Romanesque sculptural studies. In a scathing critique, Schapiro argued that Baltrušaitis’s book—and by implication Focillon’s methods—robbed Romanesque sculptors of agency and neglected the religious and expressive meanings of this art form....

Article

Italian, 14th century, male.

Active in Florence and Treviso during the first half of the 14th century.

Born 1264, in Barberino di Val d'Elsa; died 1348, in Florence.

Poet, draughtsman.

Sutton, Kay: ‘The lost 'Officiolum' of Francesco da Barberino rediscovered’ in The Burlington Magazine, n° 1224, vol. CXLVII, periodical, March 2005....

Article

French, 15th century, male.

Active in Troyes from 1480 to 1486.

Writer, miniaturist, binder.